Catherine’s War – book review

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Catherine’s War
by Julia Billet
illustrated by Claire Fauvel
translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger
Graphic Novel
Historical Fiction
WWII/Holocaust
(for grades 5+, teens, and adults)

In 1942, teenager Rachel Cohen finds herself at the Children’s Home boarding school in Sevres France, after her parents send her there for her safety. World War II is being fought throughout France and the Germans are invading. As a Jewish person, Rachel is in an even more dangerous position and the school faculty are determined to protect her and the other young people in their care. As the war escalates, the children change their names to hide their true identities. And, as the Nazis draw near, they are evacuated to other safehouses (farms, cities, convents, etc.) – sometimes multiple times. Rachel becomes “Catherine Colin,” and looks after a shy, young girl who is on her own (desperately missing her family). Catherine also misses her family, but her passion for photography sustains her, and her photographs of the people, places, and experiences of the war help her process what is happening around her. Later these become part of a special exhibition capturing the experiences of the children who were displaced by the war. Readers may be surprised to learn that this is a work of fiction. Rachel/Catherine and her photos seem entirely real.

Reviewed by  YA Librarian